On his newest album, Hozier seems more comfortable making sonically challenging music. (Illustration by Julianna Renk, University of California, Berkeley)

Hozier’s ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ Talks Light, Darkness, Love and Destruction

The Grammy-nominated artist known for ‘Take Me To Church’ has suddenly released a work of pure art.

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The Grammy-nominated artist known for ‘Take Me To Church’ has suddenly released a work of pure art.

With the release of his new album, “Wasteland, Baby!,” which dropped March 1, Hozier has finally secured his first No. 1 spot on the charts. This is the first full-album release since his self-titled debut in 2014, so expectations were high, to say the least. Happily, listeners will be satisfied with the 14-track delivery of perfectly blended soulful rock and folk.

Hozier pays tribute to some artists that doubled as social activists by name dropping them in some songs, particularly “Nina Cried Power” and “Almost (Sweet Music),” where he mentions Nina Simone, John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, James Brown and Duke Ellington.

Overall, the album has elements of passion and the eerie instrumentals that Hozier is known for. His voice is as strong as ever, and I’d like to propose that the complexity of “Wasteland, Baby!” has substantially topped his self-titled debut.

1. “Nina Cried Power”

Featuring Mavis Staples, the opener to the album is a protest song that reflects on social activists from the 20th century, such as Staples herself.

The track was released as a single last September and was ranked as one of the best tracks of 2018 by Barack Obama in his traditional end of year “best of” lists.

2. “Almost (Sweet Music)”

Hozier pays tribute to some of his favorite jazz musicians mentioned earlier, such as Ellington.

In an interview with Entertainment, Hozier said he was eager to point to some of the music that shaped his formative years. “Then, it was a way to leave little bread crumbs for younger fans to follow a path to check those songs out,” he said.

3. “Movement”

This one takes the album for a twist. Suddenly the aura is full of lust and desire. Hozier’s lyrics and voice are intense in all the right places, accompanied with a lingering feeling of scandal that makes listeners hit repeat as soon as the song ends.

It’s almost impossible to get a full grasp of the track upon the first listen, which I think works to its advantage. Upon tuning in more frequently, you can pick up on even more cues that send the song over the edge.

4. “No Plan”

There is more of an alternative or indie rock vibe in this particular track. Hozier’s voice meshes perfectly with this type of tune, and the electric guitar solo in the song makes it a perfect addition to the album.

This is arguably my favorite track, with a dash of charm and seduction that is present in “Movement.”

5. “Nobody”

Feel-good guitar riffs and a steady rhythm that would make an entire concert stadium close their eyes in a content bliss.

In the most cheesy sense of the phrase, this song makes me desire to be in love with life. Everything that is dark about the world pauses for a moment as this song plays, and the atmosphere is so much brighter.

6. “To Noise Making (Sing)”

If there’s any song that makes a person want to be in love while simultaneously wishing they were in love with Hozier, this is it. This man’s voice is like butter melting on a piece of steak.

The electronic beat combined with piano puts a modern flair on lyrics that seem to be painting a modern-day love story.

7. “As It Was”

Woah. The dark aura with the acoustic guitar and stringed instruments will give you goosebumps.

This is a song that would be played after someone died in a really dramatic movie and the protagonist is soaking all of the reality in. It’s intense in the best way possible. Cue the replay for at least another 10 rounds.

8. “Shrike”

Hozier’s voice is altered in this track to almost make it sound like his voice is being projected at the end of a very long tunnel. It almost makes it seem as if he is a part of the past, bringing on a feeling of longing and nostalgia.

At this point, listeners have been taken through so many emotional rollercoasters with this album that this one really hit home. The icing on the cake for giving someone feelings of sadness that they didn’t know they had.

9. “Talk”

Dipping back into the slow alternative route, this track parallels some elements from works by Arctic Monkeys. It is filled with elements of death and doom and all of the gloom in-between.

The slow rhythm and Hozier’s disdained voice makes this feel more raw and somehow more realistic than the rest. The feeling of despair and lack of control really bleeds through in “Talk” and although other critics have deemed this one of the weaker pieces of the album, I think this piece really binds the whole album together.

10. “Be”

The electric guitars really come into play in this track, and it works to its benefit as it creates an element of punk and electric soul.

Hozier tells the listeners to “Be as you’ve always been / Be like the lover that discovers sin” in an uplifting way that still has a mask of a dangerous bad-boy vibe, encouraging them to cross over to the dark side of lust and sin.

11. “Dinner & Diatribes”

Playing off the mood depicted in “Be” and “Movement,” this addition to the album depicts Hozier attending a party while his mind is focused solely on being alone with his date.

While noting the distaste of social events, it taps into his theme of desire and romance that is affecting his daily life at every turn. Pretty sure that any fan would sell their soul to be Hozier’s date at that party.

12. “Would That I”

Featuring the screaming sing-song voice that made Hozier explode on the billboard with his first viral hit “Take Me To Church,” “Would That I” has all that and more.

With a falsetto and the tale of using someone’s love as a form of protection from the unknown, this song tugs at all of the right heartstrings as the listeners realize that the song is about what Hozier wished he would have done in his past relationship. Cue the tissues.

13. “Sunlight”

Like the title implies, this song sheds some light onto the darkness that has been prevalent in the album. It is a tug-and-pull mechanism of light and darkness, of the celebration of life and the recognition of death.

This is the light version of “No Plan” that has elements of rock and darkness. Hozier is describing someone as his sunlight and makes comparisons of their love to the warmth of sunlight.

14. “Wasteland, Baby!”

Last but certainly not least, “Wasteland, Baby!” is a love story turned apocalyptic. In its opening, Hozier sings, “All the fear and the fire of the end of the world / Happens each time a boy falls in love with a girl.” Despite the catastrophic events at hand, Hozier finds comfort in the wasteland that is falling in love.

To say that this album was a basket of emotions is an understatement. Be prepared to grin, cry and suddenly want to have sex all at once. For extra effect, listen to it very early in the morning when the sun is about to rise.

“Wasteland, Baby!” will certainly be a contender for one of the best indie albums of 2019.

“And the stench of the sea and the absence of green/Are the death of all things that are seen and unseen/Not an end, but the start of all things that are left to do.” Perfection.

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